tv Earth Focus LINKTV November 9, 2015 7:30am-8:01am PST
>> today on "earth focus"... mining, a new film on conflict over a uranium mill in colorado, and reports on the unexpected effects of mining coal in south africa and gold in ecuador. coming up on "earth focus." filmmaker suzan beraza screened her new film, "uranium drive-in" at the 2014 environmental film festival in the nation's capital. promise of jobs from a proposed uranium mill is a tantalizing prospect for an economically devastated colorado town, until environmentalists step in to try to shut it down. will jobs or health and environment prevail? the film documents
how a local community comes to grips with the dilemma. >> we're trying to open up a uranium mill, and they're trying to shut it down. you know, it's a big dream, and people are looking forward to these jobs out there. >> i want them to understand that there's people here. >> yeah, but i don't think they care about us people. i mean, there's no compromise. they don't care about us. >> nuclear power was supposed to be our future. a lot of this town was here because of union carbide, and then when they left, we're still here. they're long gone now. >> it's almost like we're still surviving, but it's just kind of like those last few breaths. we want to keep breathing, but we've got to get something in here to do it. >> nuclear energy remains our largest source of fuel that produces no carbon emissions. we'll need to increase our supply of nuclear power.
>> it is the first uranium mill to be built in the united states in 25 years. >> the only thing i'm interested in is seeing this mill get stopped. >> if you're only hearing the piece about jobs, you're not protecting your community. i dare you to do better. >> the people complaining the most are driving to the protests in their mercedes. you can only kick a dog so many times and pretty soon he's going to turn around and bite you. >> we have a lot of people telling us that the land is more important than its people. >> there is no impact from what we have done or what we plan to do in the future regarding uranium mine development. >> we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives, and that means building a new generation of safe, clean, nuclear power plants in this country. >> they're not telling you the truth. i'm really disgusted, and i'm against this mill.
>> ♪ for the one that feels it >> i guess, initially, going into the film, i probably felt that the mill was a bad idea, like, why would anyone want to usher back in an industry that had obviously shortened people's lives and had created a lot of environmental havoc in the area? so, i was going to do the film in this community looking at the pros and cons within that community. but what i found, which surprised me, is that in that region, almost everyone was unanimously for this uranium mill. so, i really wanted the film to look from a very human perspective, why that would be, why people would usher back in this industry. >> as the mayor of naturita, i am very excited and hopeful that in 6 to 8 months we're going to start seeing ore trucks rolling through the town, we're going to see the mining picking up, and we're going to see the milling moving forward.
>> the towns of naturita and nucla are located in the west in the montrose county. >> can everybody hear me okay out there? [microphone noise] [laughter] let's talk a bit about the industry in general, where our project is situated. of course, it is the uranium mining industry, nothing new to you people. the supply and demand got such that we could reopen these facilities, build this mill, and we're going to bring that to reality so that you can reap benefits from that along with the company. [applause] >> uranium has been a huge economic boom to this whole area. these small communities never had it as good as when there was uranium mining. and i do know that when you're struggling to put your kids through college, put food on the table,
some of these arenas look very, very appealing. and i cannot say that if i was in that boat that i wouldn't be right there swimming the same stream. is it worth it to open more mines and more mills? to me, it is. it's an issue we all face, not just me or the miners. it's an issue that we all face, because we do not give up our consumption of fossil fuels, and... so, where it's going to lead? i'm just a cowgirl. i don't know. >> after spending some time in this community, i really empathized with their position. first of all, they have a very strong sense of community and of place, and i feel, if you are from some of these smaller towns in america where community is so important, you don't want to lose that. you know, people just say, "just pick up and go to a city, like,
go somewhere else," and they will say, "no, you know, we love it here. we've been here for generations." i think it started out for me that i thought it would be more of an environmental film, and very early on i thought, this is much more a story about rural america, and about economy, and how it's really unfair when-- if someone is in a state of desperation where they feel that they have to pit job against health and environment, that's like the expression, you know, being between a rock and a hard place, that's just not a fair place to be. >> 5 years we have been trying to keep our doors open, thinking, "any day now those jobs are going to be here." these are the only people that have come in and offered us jobs. if any of the people here who are against it had come in and said they had jobs to match it, we'd be behind that, too. but right now this is all we've got. and i just want the people here to remember that they're keeping 1,200 people from surviving,
and that's really all i want them to know. is that every one of you that has stood up against this could have brought in jobs for us, and you didn't yet, 5 years. so, please, remember that when you guys make this decision. we're waiting, and we've been waiting a long time. thank you. >> the film also strikes on issues of classism as well, because telluride, which is one of their closest neighbors, is a very wealthy ski town, and i really felt that it's also looking at the issue of "you can be an environmentalist if you can afford to be an environmentalist." so, obviously the people in telluride can afford to be concerned about their environment, and they are, and not a good or a bad thing, not a judgment, but the people in nucla and naturita were extremely frustrated, because they felt like telluride and the opposition to the mill was really slowing down the process in getting the mill built. >> energy fuels and the mill will happen because they have
worked diligently in making that process work. >> but the process has had a little bit of extra help from some of those people. >> they have kept this mill held up a long time. >> and there's not a job that doesn't have a degree-- >> there's more people killed in skiing accidents than mining accidents. >> am i the only one that's realized that nucla started as a hippie commune that got taken over by miners, and telluride started as a mining community that got taken over by hippies? >> [laughs] >> damon, they don't care. >> i think the biggest thing that i have found is it's not that they don't care, it's just that they don't understand. you know, we've always been a good neighbor, and i think in return that's what we're asking them to do, is be a good neighbor. come down and understand us, don't just try to save us, because we don't need to be saved. we understand the regulations, we understand the problems, and we're willing to work through them. >> and, hopefully, audiences will take... will just enjoy
something being balanced, because the film really is balanced and looking at both sides. >> the cotter uranium mill is about two miles uphill from the arkansas river that flows through our community. i live a mile and a quarter from the mill. and so i have two wells that were contaminated by the cotter uranium mill. there are about 125 wells that were contaminated from cotter. nobody told us in all those 8 years that the well was contaminated. we tested our well when we first bought the property, we went to the county extension office, and they gave us the bottles, and told us what company to send it to, but they failed to tell us the really important thing. "hey, have it tested for radionuclides and heavy metals." i do not believe that it is okay
for a company, in order to make profit, to pollute people against their will. i've heard energy fuel officials stand up in front of big crowds and say, "oh, that's all from the past. it's all going to be different now. we have better regulations." you know what? you can look at what has been happening right here, this year, last month, last year, the year before, and you can see exactly how they will regulate that mill. the claim that nuclear energy is environmentally green is just simply a myth, because they're only looking at the carbon dioxide released at the reactor itself. our country has just been bamboozled with this. for them to consider building new mills and creating new spots like this, this really,
i think, emphasizes the hidden costs that the people in the country never see that have to do with nuclear energy. >> rather be out mining than harvesting tomatoes. frustration doesn't even come close to describing how we feel about our lives and our choices being taken away from us. when you've been out of work, your unemployment's running out, your savings is gone, your wife and your kids are gone, people are getting very, very angry. if the economy falters any more, if people don't realize that nuclear is our best option, telluride keeps fighting us tooth and nail, it might not happen, period. and i really hope i'm wrong. >> my hope for the film is that audiences who see the film
understand that it's really not a simple issue. when we're talking about things like the big picture of energy, this is a very small microcosm example of people and lives that are affected by our energy policy, which, especially as americans, use more and more energy. more than europeans, more, obviously, than the rest of the world, and yet we don't seem to have a very clear understanding of how we are supposed to keep supplying that energy. attention needs to be made to our energy needs and policies. >> across the atlantic, in south africa, plans to put an open coal pit mine next to a white rhino reserve put the health and welfare of both rhinos and local people at risk. jeff barbee reports. >> poaching has become a crisis.
the number of rhino killed for their horn has gone from 13 in 2007, to over 1,000 in 2013 alone. but a new danger to the park may be even more disastrous than the widespread poaching problem in the country. a new open-cast coal mine on the southern border of the park threatens this, africa's most important rhino breeding ground. park officials here worry that this new danger could be a deep dark hole for rhino conservation, because the mine will pollute the air with dangerous gases, like toluene and benzene, and blow toxic coal dust over this wilderness area. the mine will also discharge acid mine water laced with sulfuric acid and radioactive byproducts into the umfolozi river, where the park's animals and the livestock of the surrounding community all drink. >> and when we come here, we come here to kind of, like, to unwind and experience the wild, and now
there's a mine happening on the edge of the wilderness, and it's diluting every experience that the people are getting here. >> if hundreds of rhinos are killed for their horn, the population can be reestablished as long as enough are saved. but if the park is polluted with toxic mine waste, this last refuge of the rhino will be lost forever. >> where our concern lies is with respect to dust, because there's no analysis of the dust, in terms of the toxic components within that dust, given the coal mining, and the blasting, and that sort of thing. now, you can feel this wind. this wind is blowing across us right into the game reserve. so, they mine here, this southeastern wind will carry the dust, and the fallout will be in the park, in the wilderness area. >> if it goes ahead, the coal mine will be right against the boundary fence
of the park. this community of 1,200 people will be forcibly relocated off the land. another coal mine opened in 2007, 10 kilometers away from the village, and people here already fall sick from breathing the toxic dust. >> [speaking afrikaans] >> this is an aerial view of the older mine, which nduna's nephew says is already causing their cattle to die. >> we are also feeling the consequences of them allowing that mine there. we've already witnessed some of our cows dying. the past year, i'm talking about from june last year till now, i myself have lost about 18 of them.
>> to have so many fall ill and die means that the rhinos and other animals next door in the park who drink the same water are also in danger. in rural africa, cows are the real wealth, like living, walking bank accounts. to pay for a child's education, ndimande would sell a few cows, but now that is out of the question. this is a small community right on the edge of imfolozi park, and the community experiences a lot of benefits from the park itself, and they are very concerned about what's going to happen if the mine goes in just next to the park and right within their community. >> we are right next to the game reserve, and by us allowing the mine to take over this land there, and then it will mean those animals in the game reserve will end up suffering because of the pollution. >> the dangers of having a mine right on the border of the park is not lost to roger porter. he's the former head
of conservation and planning at the park's administration. he agrees with ndimande that the mine could not only threaten the animals, but could make poaching worse. >> the whole security issue has not been addressed. mines tend to be a magnet, drawing in people from surrounding areas because of the potential opportunity of jobs. universally, it's well known that levels of crime increase around mines. so, poaching is a crime. >> according to dr. player, if the mine and the poaching are not stopped, the whole web of life that has been protected here for over a century will fail. >> there's no doubt in my mind that if that mine went ahead, it would destroy the wilderness. >> in a press statement, ibutho coal, who declined to comment on this story, touted jobs as a major benefit
to the local economy when the mine comes in. but according to the community, the mine has not consulted them, or even told them where they will be forced to relocate to. for more than 100 years, the hluhluwe-imfolozi park has been a sanctuary for rhinos and many other endangered animals. it is a place that inspires visitors, communities, and conservationists all over the world. to lose this area in a coal mining operation is unacceptable to dr. player. >> the people, they say, "it's impossible, you can't defeat these big mining companies." and we said, "no, you can." but you've got to know that what you are doing is absolutely right. if you know that, then the rest is strategy and tactics. >> this is jeffrey barbee reporting from the hluhluwe-imfolozi park in south africa for link tv.
>> in ecuador's highlands, indigenous communities fight foreign gold mining companies in an effort to save something even more precious than gold to them: their water. constantino de miguel reports. >> ecuador is a south american country with a booming economy driven, in large part, by the world's appetite for its raw materials. ecuador is blessed with some of the richest biological diversity in the world. the wealth of its fauna and flora can be seen in the kimsakocha wetlands in the andes highlands. but beneath the ground there is gold and copper that are set to be exploited on a grand scale. the ecuadorian government awarded concessions to foreign companies to exploit this region, despite local opposition by peasants and indigenous communities whose agriculture depends on the local water resources. the 2,000 families that live on the kimsakocha asked the government to withdraw the mining concessions in 2007. but when ecuadorian president
>> ecuador has attracted several foreign mining corporations interested in extracting gold, silver, copper, and other metals, mostly from the southern parts of the country. the projected mines are all large scale and stand to significantly alter the local ecosystems. toronto-based iamgold got the license to drill on kimsakocha in 2000, then sold the concessions to another canadian company, inv metals, in 2012. these protected natural and forest area of over 34,000 hectares is in danger, but the gold fever is pervasive. according to perez, the mining company already exploring in the area has destroyed the harmony of the local communities. >> [speaking spanish]
>> to obtain just two grams of gold, one ton of rocks needs to be moved, broken down, and sifted. the company will use heavy dump trucks, make big open pits, and use explosives to crash the mineral. an open pit gold mine is like a huge chemical plant where cyanide, mercury, and sulfuric acid are used to extract the mineral. these elements are mixed with the ore to separate gold from waste. the resulting waste will accumulate on mountain sides, contaminating water sources with heavy metals and chemicals harmful for human health. pressure to extract rich minerals like gold or copper from these highlands is increasing. chinese and canadian companies
have succeeded to persuade the ecuadorian government to grant licenses to open up this ground, ignoring the opposition from the native population. president rafael correa is now confronting the quechua indians after he pledged to defend their interests when he was elected 7 years ago. president rafael correa has been concentrating power around his government after being reelected to a third term. now correa's leadership and popularity is threatened by grassroots and indian movements that oppose his drive to make mining a main source of revenue for ecuador. >> [speaking spanish]
>> ecuador faces a tough dilemma. should its natural resources be exploited on a large industrial scale? or should they be preserved for the sake of the environmental protection? according to this analyst, mineral riches are the only means to finance health, education, and public works, so necessary for the development of the country. >> [speaking spanish]
11/09/15 11/09/15 [captioning made possible by democracy now!] amy: from pacifica, this is democracy now! a globala is now leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change. frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership. and that is the biggest risks we face, not acting. dead.he keystone xl is president obama has rejected the controversial pipeline. we will go to nebraska to speak with jane kleeb and across the th